In rarity, liquefied natural gas ship braves Red Sea days after Houthis sink vessel

Palau-flagged Aysa Energy is first tanker of its kind to sail through area since January, when such trips were halted due to rebels’ attacks

Yemeni coastguards loyal to the internationally recognized government ride in a patrol boat in the Red Sea off the government-held town of Mokha in the western Taiz province, close to the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, on April 15, 2024. (Khaled Ziad / AFP)
Yemeni coastguards loyal to the internationally recognized government ride in a patrol boat in the Red Sea off the government-held town of Mokha in the western Taiz province, close to the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, on April 15, 2024. (Khaled Ziad / AFP)

SINGAPORE (Reuters) — The first liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker since January is sailing through the Red Sea, just days after Yemen-based Houthi rebels sank their second vessel in a series of attacks that began last November.

The LNG vessel, Asya Energy, passed Yemen, traveling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait on Tuesday, ship tracking data from LSEG and Kpler showed, the same week that the second ship believed to have been hit by the rebels sank.

“Asya Energy is the first LNG tanker to sail through the Strait since January, when LNG voyages through the Red Sea were suspended amid repeated rocket attacks,” said LSEG analyst Olumide Ajayi.

Data showed the ship was carrying cargo, he added.

Most LNG tankers have avoided the route after the Houthis’ repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea region. They call the attacks, since expanded to other busy waterways, acts of solidarity with Palestinians in Israel’s war against Hamas.

The Suez Canal links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, creating the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia, and is connected to the Gulf of Aden by the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and Djibouti.

Yemenis raise placards as they take part in a solidarity march with the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip, in the Houthi-run capital Sanaa on June 14, 2024. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

Palau-flagged Asya Energy is heading for Gibraltar, Kpler data shows. It previously called at the Sohar port in Oman, LSEG data showed.

It was not immediately clear who had chartered the ship.

Nur Global Shipping manages the ship, which is owned by Lule One Services, Equasis data showed, with both companies based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Nur Global Shipping did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted on LinkedIn.

Reuters could not find contact information for Lule One Services.

The Asya Energy may soon become the first vessel to take the Red Sea passage since January 12 after waiting around the coast of Oman since mid-January, said Ana Subasic, natural gas and LNG analyst at data and analytics firm Kpler.

“At present, automatic identification system (AIS) signal feed to our platform shows the ballast vessel has set a course towards the Gibraltar checkpoint, although…it is too early to be making an accurate prediction,” she said.

“We are keeping a very close eye on it and waiting for more ad-hoc raw signals or market sources to feed in.”

Leading industry groups have called for urgent action in the Red Sea to stop attacks on merchant shipping by the Houthis, whose first ship sunk was the British-owned Rubymar, on March 2, about two weeks after being struck by missiles.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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